Thursday, 15 November 2012

Heading for trouble over extended collective licensing?

The Register reports, under the headline UK's planned copyright landgrab will spark US litigation 'firestorm', that American photographers are not amused by the changes which will be wrought by the Business and Enterprise Reform Bill currently before Parliament. The American Society of Media Photographers, the Professional Photographers of America, the National Press Photographers Association, the Picture Archive Council of America, and the Graphic Artists Guild, argue in a letter to Business Secretary Vince Cable that the proposals to create extended collective licensing schemes breach international law, saying:


If the use of foreign works in the UK is directly or indirectly permitted by this Bill, a firestorm of international litigation will immediately ensue, and any persons, businesses or institutions making use of foreign works under this Bill would be well served to expect to be promptly sued by the copyright holders, incurring significant liability for copyright infringement.


The schemes can grant others the rights to use material without the copyright owners' consent, and without payment of a royalty, unless they manage to opt out of the scheme. Rather like the Google book scheme, then. Intended to deal with the problem of orphan works, the UK legislation seems to be being pushed through with indecent haste before the recently-adopted directive has to be implemented: the UK's own approach is very different from that in the European Union.

The Register explaines that calling things "orphan works" is often misleading because "most of them are actually recent digital images that have been stripped of their attribution, rather than old black-and-white snaps festering in library vaults". It also reports that no economic impact assessment of the potential damage has been conducted by the IPO, which it refers to as a "rogue agency" (singling out one civil servant for particular opprobrium, which I won't compound by mentioning names here).

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